X-rays have been detected from behind a black hole for the first time ever – Interesting Engineering


Such a phenomenon has been theorized to exist before and is explained by the fact that as gas descends into a supermassive black hole, brilliant flares of X-ray emissions are produced — exactly as seen by researchers.

X-rays have been detected from behind a black hole for the first time ever

Black hole.

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Short X-ray flashes were then observed after the flares subsided. These flashes corresponded to the reflection of the flares from the far edge of the disc, which had been curved around the black hole by its potent gravitational field. The flares then reverberated off of the gas plunging towards the black hole.

Although even a rudimentary understanding of black holes reveals that this is a weird place for light to originate from, the theory suggests that these bright echoes are compatible with X-rays reflected from behind the black hole.

“Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything that’s behind the black hole,” explained Wilkins, who is a research scientist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.”

“It is another strange characteristic of the black hole, however, that makes this observation possible. “The reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself,” Wilkins added.

The odd discovery was described in a study that appeared on July 28, 2022, in Nature (linked below). It is the first direct observation of light coming directly from behind a black hole, a scenario that Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted but which had never been verified before.

X-rays have been detected from behind a black hole for the first time ever

Artist’s impression of a black hole.

Source : Arndt_Vladimir/iStock

“Fifty years ago, when astrophysicists starting speculating about how the magnetic field might behave close to a black hole, they had no idea that one day we might have the techniques to observe this directly and see Einstein’s general theory of relativity in action,” said Roger Blandford, a co-author of the paper who is the Luke Blossom Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford Professor of physics, and SLAC Professor of particle physics and astrophysics.

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